mean genes guitar chronicles

Hopefully not many of you have had to deal with this, and hopefully you never will, but there comes a time when a select group of us find ourselves the

Hopefully not many of you have had to deal with this, and hopefully you never will, but there comes a time when a select group of us find ourselves the victims of gear theft. For me, it was a first, even though I have been actively playing live since I was 15 years old.

On this particular night I was called up at the last minute, due to the originally slated act canceling because of car troubles. I jumped at the opportunity, as I don’t mind earning an extra $100 for a gig just a few blocks from home – three to four hours of music and my gas tank is filled back up. I had played the place numerous times and felt very comfortable performing there. I travel pretty light, toting my acoustic amp/PA, a Martin Jumbo and a 12-string Ovation, along with mics, stands and all of my other performance gear, so it was really no problem to help out at the last second.

Following the gig, I loaded up my gear into my parked truck, only feet from the main entry. I walked back inside to pick up my payment from the bartender, but it seemed that he was momentarily busy, so I sat down with a friend of mine and struck up a conversation. A few minutes later I remembered that I had left my truck unlocked. Heading outside, I looked into the back of my truck, only to find an empty space where my brand new Ovation 12-string guitar had been. I had bought it only three weeks earlier, and had been digging the expansive acoustic tones it produced. A USA model 2751 LX-4 from Lightning Joe’s Guitar Heaven, I had scouted out about a dozen various makes before settling on serial number #593993. The silver lining was that they left my Martin Jumbo – I would have been even more heartbroken had my trusty six-shooter taken flight.

Mean Gene''s Guitar Chronicles Instead of heading home for some muchneeded shuteye, I found myself waiting around for another hour to file a police report. I soon realized that I had potentially four avenues for recovering my stolen instrument: insurance coverage on the credit card used to buy the instrument, my homeowner’s insurance, my auto insurance and my business insurance. I quickly found out that my auto policy was limited to what is actually attached to the vehicle, and my homeowner’s policy had a $1000 deductible for a claim – the purchase price was only $1299, and I reasoned that it wasn’t worth kicking the beehive for a measly $299. My credit card company refused to comment on If the purchase would be covered, and said that the process would require a variety of documents to be sent back and forth if it was to be pursued. I finally received a positive response from The Hartford, my business insurance company, and they informed me that I could file a claim for off-the-premises property with a $250 deductible.

Insuring your gear its well worth the homework – you’ll find out how much coverage you currently have, as well as how much coverage you need, so that you won’t have to keep making payments on an instrument you no longer have. Companies like Clarion Associates Inc. specialize in musical instrument protection (call 1-800-VIVALDI for a quote), and you can also find insurance through retailers like Musician’s Friend. These companies will pay you directly for any shipping damage, accidental damage or theft, but if you already have a renter’s or homeowner’s policy, a simple phone call to your agent will answer any questions you may have about the need for specialized insurance.

Of course, sometimes you just have to take your guitar’s safety into your own hands – I often install small microchips into the instruments we build, known as RFIDs (Radio Frequency Identification Device). This process embeds a serial number inside the object and can only be identified with a special scanner. They basically add proof of ownership that can be helpful without your presence. See for more information; kits are available through Technology has advanced so much within the last few years – cell phones can be traced to locations and everything is becoming increasingly wireless – that it will be interesting to see what advances in personal security take place. Perhaps it will be possible one day for your stolen guitar to call you and tell you where it’s at.

So make sure you take the steps to protect your gear – keep receipts of your gear purchases on file, submit any warranty information to the manufacturer and take the extra second to lock up your vehicle, even if you’re only going to be gone for “a few minutes.” If you have nice gear that isn’t easily replaced, you may want to consider contacting a dedicated instrument insurance agency for a quote, and keep records and photographs of the instrument on file – if nothing else, these will make it easier to create a flier to plaster around town. If you do become the victim of gear theft, make sure to file a police report as soon as possible. Notify all of the music stores and pawnshops in the area, and check eBay and Craig’s List to see if it has been listed. If you’re lucky, perhaps that wayward bird will find its way home.

Gene Baker
Any questions or comments visit
email me at
Fine Tuned Instruments LLC, home of his “b3” instruments.

Gene Baker recalls his three go-to rigs from Roland, Centaur and Elmwood.

In the past year my musical travels have introduced me to a variety of new gear and club situations. I’ve played solo acoustic gigs where they basically want you to be background music – something I wasn’t quite accustomed to; small restaurants with my band, where we all had to play acoustics just to keep the volume levels in check; average clubs where there’s no need to mic your guitar rig; and nice-sized venues, warming up for bands like Thin Lizzy. Because there were so many different venues, I found myself constantly trying out different rigs, all in the search to find the perfect tool for the job. Now, I’d like to introduce you to three amps that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. These are not paid or free gear endorsements – these are all amps that I have purchased and that have performed when I needed them most.

The Roland CUBE Street
This is a tiny, little guy, capable of running on six AA batteries, making it a great camping/boating companion – of course, if that was all it did, you probably wouldn’t see it on this list. It packs in two channels, with a third input for an iPod. The first channel is primarily a vocal channel (a mic/line input), with its own Volume, EQ and effects. Channel 2 is aimed at guitarists, but it is versatile enough to be used for any electrified instrument. The controls on this channel include Volume, Gain, EQ, two sets of effects and models of your favorite amps.

I’ve been using this amp for quiet acoustic gigs and it has been working like a charm. The “Acoustic Guitar” setting has a nice compression that keeps you from blowing out the dual 6.5” speakers, and it makes for a simple vocal PA in a snap. The built-in effects let you leave the pedalboard at home, making it great for small gigs and backstage warm-ups. The only things I would add to make this a complete package are a speaker on/off switch and a pole stand adapter, although I may be able to modify it for that.

Mean Gene''s Guitar ChroniclesThe Centaur A1525V
This Southern California-based company has made a name for themselves by producing an excellent line of acoustic amps. I originally found one used on eBay a year ago and have since upgraded to one of their newer amps, having been so impressed with the early model. Weighing in at 50 pounds, it packs a major punch in both volume and tone. Better yet, when it comes to acoustic/vocal reproduction, the A1525V is very honest – what goes in is what comes out. I use this amp for most solo acoustic gigs, but it even handles our three piece band, consisting of guitar, bass, electronic drums and three vocals. It definitely makes for a flexible rig – I’ve used it as a PA stage monitor and in a stereo guitar rig with an effects feed from my main guitar amp. With fat, clean reproduction of anything you feed it, it has become my Swiss Army amplifier. I wish it had a pole mount, but that’s nothing I can’t fix. If you’re interested, check them out at

The Elmwood Modena 90
At one point during the year, I found myself searching for a smoking, all-in-one amp rig. I needed something with a big, warm, clean tone; a nice crunch tone; and capable of burning leads with a solo boost and effects loop. Fortunately I was introduced to the Modena 90, straight out of Sweden, through I love complexity served up simply, if that makes any sense, and the Modena does this nicely. It has two basic channels – Clean/Crunch, both with independent tone controls – and adds a second set of gain stages to each channel with two Master Volumes, essentially giving you six settings in two channels.

What I like the best about the Modena 90 is that it does its own thing – it’s not an imitator. In addition, despite pumping out 90 watts of juice through two KT88s, Elmwood was able to keep the head smaller than a full-sized Marshall head. The clean channel can go from super clean to a hefty, defined crunch when the second gain stage is added. The Gain channel is borderline ridiculous, in a very good way. The first gain stage is enough to make any gain lover smile, and it can be dialed from percussive, crunchy rhythms to over-the-top leads. Toss in the second gain stage and hold onto your hair because you’re going for the ride of your life. It cranks out more gain than I’ve ever heard, yet stays tight and focused. You may not need to throttle it up that high, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if you need it. If you have a police-calling neighbor, you’ll want to stay away from Elmwood’s website –

Gene Baker
Any questions or comments visit
email me at
Fine Tuned Instruments LLC, home of his “b3” instruments.

Sanding the edges Routing the radius Jigged up for fret dressing Day Five – Final Details From here on, it’s mainly handwork and detailing. Let’s take a look at

Mean Gene''s Guitar Chronicles
Sanding the edges
Mean Gene''s Guitar Chronicles
Routing the radius
Mean Gene''s Guitar Chronicles
Jigged up for fret dressing

Day Five – Final Details
From here on, it’s mainly handwork and detailing. Let’s take a look at some of the tools you can choose to work with to perform what is the most time consuming detail in guitar building – sanding. These include a stout bench mount or floor pedestal vise, a nice set of files, router, assorted power and pneumatic air sanders and several custom blocks for hand sanding. You can easily spend up to 70 percent of the entire project sanding. It is the final step in the visual quality of your work and an art in its own right.

I like to have the body sides sanded before routing the edge radius to help minimize subsequent sanding. I sand the side of the body on an edge and/or spindle sander to a nice, rough finish to remove any fuzz or cutter tool marks.

Routing the Radius
With our sides detailed, we can route our radius. Since these are neck-thru designs, the rear of the body can be easily routed using a table mount or handheld router. The top is more difficult because the fretboard gets in the way of using power tools. You could use a smaller laminate trim router on the face, but you can only get as close as the diameter of the router base (although you can use files to shape in the rest). A pin router is ideal for routing the face radius, as it allows the radius to get close to the fretboard. We use a 1/2” round over bit for those big, comfy edge contours.

Final Shaping
I find this step to be a lot of fun. A CNC machine will only cut as well as you can draw, and since a guitar is a three-dimensional object all the blend areas like the neck transition into the body or the headstock to neck transition are rather software intensive – certain tasks happen very quickly in CAD, where finer details can become extremely time consuming. This is when doing particular operations yourself becomes more efficient and rewarding, allowing you to put your thumbprint on the instrument.

The Stew Mac bench vise is integral here, due to the padded jaws’ ability to swivel to accommodate any unparallel items. I use angle grinders with carbide burr bits as well as a bladder sander that is like a two-handed pneumatic rolling pin spindle sander – great for getting into tight spots and detailing body horn areas. For certain details, a variety of rasps, files or customshaped sanding blocks may work best – power tools in unskilled hands can often be too aggressive. I will continue on the body using a hand orbital sander and assorted sanding blocks to completely detail the guitar up to 120 grit.

The Fretboard
It’s time to get the fretboard ready for the frets. The most important detail at this point is to ensure you have adequate relief in the neck – this is where truing the fretboard can become a make or break point for some guitars. But before we get too carried away, we need to glue in our inlays and drill for our side dots. I suggest not drilling your side dots until your fretboard has been trued. The inlays you use – typically thin shell materials or thicker clay or plastic dots – often dictate how careful you need to be. Shell inlays require more attention. Glue them in too deeply and you’ll have to sand more, potentially causing fret slot depth problems; not deep enough and you may sand through one when truing or lose its vibrant color. You can use wood glue, epoxy or Krazy glues for the inlay, each offering its own advantages and disadvantages. You can tint epoxy with powder pigments to hide wood voids, plus get fast drying time with 10 to 30 minute glues; wood glues clean up easily but take a little longer to dry.

Once the inlays are in we can get on with truing our fretboard. I wrote an article for the August 2005 issue of Musician’s Hotline [now Premier Guitar] showing various jigs designed to hold a Fender or Gibson-style guitar for fret dressing. The same jigs are used here. The process for truing a fretboard and dressing frets are similar, but prior to fretting is where you finalize the range of rod adjustment you will ultimately have. The main thing to remember here is to avoid over-sanding.

Join us next month when we wrap this baby up!

Gene Baker
Any questions or comments visit
email me at
Fine Tuned Instruments LLC, home of his “b3” instruments.